Urban Planning

Rapid urbanization compounded by inadequate urban planning, inadequate infrastructure, poor quality construction, weak governance capacities and climate change impacts are increasing cities’ exposure to hazards. Urban/city planning process, or often used interchangeably, land-use planning process commonly falls under the authority of local governments or municipalities. Land-use planning can be defined as orderly disposition of land, resources, facilities and services to create convenient, equitable, healthful, efficient, and attractive environments.

Community Organization

RCRC National Societies and other civil society organizations can influence urban planning process for making cities resilient through:

1. Advocating for inclusion of communities and key stakeholders in the planning process to ensure:

  • Incorporation of disaster risk reduction measures in all urban development designs, projects and programs.
  • Making safe land available for urban development, avoiding construction in disaster prone areas.
  • Enforcing building codes to ensure the longevity and resilience of the physical structures to hazards such as earthquakes and floods.
  • Upgrading informal settlements, with attention to access roads, flood-risk, and other safety measures.
  • Ensuring that adequate public spaces (streets, parks) are available and safe –especially for women and children. 
  • Integration of mixed land uses (residential, commercial, recreational) into communities as a critical component of achieving better places to live.
  • Protecting ecosystems to allow proper storm water drainage avoid extensive erosion and protect against storms and tidal waves.
  • Introducing information systems to effectively communicate planning decisions with the communities.

2. Partnering with local governments and other stakeholders for:

  • Setting up people-centered early warning and community based emergency response systems.
  • Implementing programs designed to enhance livelihood options, increase social cohesion and improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in the city.
  • Reducing violence and crime.
  • Promoting land and property rights of poor especially of women and youth[1].
  • Organizing public awareness raising campaigns and education programs focusing on disaster risks and preparedness measures at the household and community levels.
  • Promoting and supporting recycling, reuse, and disposal of wastes in an environmentally sound manner.

[1] In many countries, women and youth have limited access to land and property ownership. In some cases the rights of youth may be lost in cases of parents’ separation or when conflicts and disasters disrupt normal communal life.


Urban/land-use planning often leads to land-use regulations, also known as zoning, but they are not one and the same. Zoning regulates the types of activities that can be accommodated on a given piece of land, the amount of space devoted to those activities and the ways that buildings may be placed and shaped.

It is important to keep in mind that every decision regarding the use of land has consequences on the quality of life and environment. Local governments are critical to urban sustainability through their roles in urban planning including development and land-use planning, delivery of basic social services, and in energy supply and management, transport  and waste management. Engaging with diverse communities help local governments remain relevant to the needs and aspirations of the people they are to serve by making more informed decisions and investments. Planners and citizens often take on an advocacy role during the planning process in an attempt to influence public policy for more environmentally sensitive and sustainable regulations.  

Cultural, social and economic diversity is one of the defining characteristics and assets of cities and often correlated with innovation, creativity and economic growth. An inclusive, participatory planning approach is essential in achieving resilience, protecting development gains and increasing the capacity of the most vulnerable groups to absorb shocks. It requires the cooperation of all actors (community, civil society organizations, local governments, policy makers, academia, businesses, and others).